Traditional nettle soup from the north of Greece is thick and creamy with a fair amount of toasted flour to make it a nourishing winter dish. I prefer this much lighter first course which can be served cold in the summer, if you keep wilted nettles in your freezer, as I do. If nettles are not available, make the soup with just the outer leaves of Romaine lettuce, some spinach leaves, and plenty of parsley.
1 packed quart very tender nettles about 6 ounces or 200 grams (wash the nettles with gloves, and discard only the thick stems, if any)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup warm water for 30 minutes
6-12 fresh morels –or dried, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes (optional)
1 cup dry white wine
6 large outer green leaves Romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
3 bunches flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (discard only the stem-ends)
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup thick Greek yogurt, and more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
A bunch of chervil or cilantro leaves, for garnish
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
Wearing gloves blanch the nettles in 1 1/2 quarts boiling water for about 3 minutes, or until well wilted. Remove with tongs or with a slotted spoon, and let drain in a colander. Reserve the cooking broth.
In a medium pot warm the olive oil in medium-high heat and sauté the garlic for 1 minute. Add the soaked porcini and their liquid as well as the morels, if using. Sauté for 3-4 minutes stirring until tender, then carefully remove only the morels and set aside. Pour in the wine and add the chopped Romaine, the parsley and some salt. Toss several times, until the greens are wilted and soft. Transfer the greens from the pot and the drained nettles to the bowl of a food processor, add a few tablespoons of the nettle broth, and pulse several times to make a paste. You will have to scrape down all the bits that stick to the sides of the bowl.
At this point the Classic French cooking advises to pass the paste through a fine sieve in order to make a perfectly smooth soup. I love the somewhat chunky texture so I omit this step, but it is up to you.
Pour the green paste back to the pot and add the vegetable or chicken broth, and 1 cup of the nettle broth. Bring to a slow boil, and turn the heat down. Simmer the soup for about 20 minutes, half covering the pot, and stirring every now and then, until the soup thickens.
Remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt and plenty of black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve in bowls adding 1-2 morels, if using, drizzling with extra virgin olive oil and garnishing with chervil or cilantro leaves and toasted pine nuts, if you like.
Serve extra yogurt on the side.